FIREFIGHTERS want a referendum on cuts that leave the county with “dangerous” emergency cover.
The Fire Brigade’s Union (FBU) has challenged Hereford & Worcester Fire & Rescue Authority (HWFRA) to put the proposed cuts to a public vote.
As proposed, full-time 24/7 first response fire and rescue fire cover at Hereford fire station comes down to a single appliance and no more than seven fire fighters on a shift.
Those seven - presuming all are present - would be the full-time 999 response for the whole county.
“We want a simple yes or no referendum as to whether or not the public find this acceptable for a county like Herefordshire,” said area FBU secretary Steve Gould.
“If they don’t then are they prepared to pay a few pounds more on the fire service council tax precept to keep a second appliance crewed,” he said.
The FBU case is that single full-time appliance cover is dangerous when the seven, or fewer, full-time fire fighters on shift faced crewing not only the appliance but specialist functions also operating out of Hereford station like an aerial ladder unit and rescue boat.
In theory, the nearest full-time back-up would be from Malvern.
Realistically, support for the single crew would come from the retained crew of the on-call appliance at Hereford station and, beyond that, the retained crews around the county, which face cuts of their own under the plan.
“This puts more pressure on retained crews and their employers,” said Mr Gould.
“Ten years ago full time watch numbers were in double figures, now we have to say at least eight are needed on shift – and that’s not ideal,” he said.
Hereford & Worcester Fire & Rescue Authority (HWFRA) accepts that response times in the county will be compromised by cuts that save more than £767k, but maintains that, with the retained crews, enough support is in place.
Service figures show an average of around 900 incidents a year within the Hereford station area including 100 fires in buildings and 60 road traffic collisions.
Average response times currently range between 10-15 minutes.
Against this, the cut proposed for Hereford would cost 22 full-time fire fighters their jobs.
Another 48 of the county’s retained fire fighters lose their roles too, with rural stations at Bromyard, Kingsland, Ledbury, Leominster, Ross-on-Wye and Whitchurch, reduced to a single appliance or closed completely.
In February, HWFRA put the cuts plan hold as a single vote margin secured the shifting of £485k from the a £1.5m surplus into the revenue budget to help cover costs.
The proposals have already gone out to public consultation and are next due before HWFRA in June.
Full-time fire fighters in the county will join national strikes called by the FBU on May 2, 3, 4.
The retained crew at Ewyas Harold will be providing cross border cover to parts of South Wales during the strikes.